As of this writing, the
Homeland Security Advisory
threat level is yellow, which is
considered “elevated,” but it’s still
below the orange and red levels.
Still, security is a constant concern
for the pupil transportation
industry, whose precious cargo
could be an alluring target for terrorists
or others with evil intentions.
That point was illustrated perhaps most
notoriously by the Chowchilla, Calif., incident
of 1976, in which three armed men
hijacked a school bus carrying 26 students
and imprisoned them in a moving van they
had buried in a quarry.
As the captors were trying to arrange for
a $5 million ransom, the school bus driver
and some of the older boys managed to dig
their way to freedom and summon help after
16 hours underground.
On the lookout
That’s an extremely rare type of occurrence,
of course, but it shows the need for
vigilance and preparedness.
Accordingly, security will be in the spotlight
at the National School Transportation
Association’s (NSTA) annual gathering
later this month in Greensboro, N.C. The
event will host one of the first sessions of
School Bus First Observer, the successor to
the School Bus Watch program.
The NSTA meeting will offer “Train-the-
Trainer Training,” which would allow an instructor
from your operation to be certified
to teach the First Observer program to your
drivers and other employees. The goal is to
be able to effectively identify and report suspicious
activities of a potentially criminal or
terrorist nature to the proper authorities.
The three national associations
— NSTA, the National Association
for Pupil Transportation
(NAPT) and the National Association
of State Directors of Pupil
Transportation Services —
have been working on this new
First Observer program with
the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) and its partners,
so you can be assured that the training
will be tailored to the needs of pupil
More details on School Bus First Observer
are on pg. 8 in this issue.
In conjunction with the NSTA gathering
in Greensboro, TSA will hold what promises
to be an interesting and interactive
school bus security exercise.
The free session will be a scenario-based
“tabletop” exercise that will focus on assessing
security threats, establishing communications,
securing critical infrastructure
and assets, and public evacuation.
To register for the security exercise, go to
In addition to Greensboro, there will be
further opportunities for training in the
First Observer program. And later in the
year, an online module will become available
for it. Also, TSA still offers its School
Transportation Security Awareness DVD.
As of this writing, the program for the
NAPT Summit this fall hadn’t been finalized,
but discussion of TSA’s long-awaited
report to Congress on school transportation
security is likely to be on the agenda.
For our industry, security will always be
in the spotlight — no matter what color the
national threat level is at the moment.